CalFire has announced the re-opening of public comment on the “Dogwood” floodplain logging plan (THP 1-15-042-SON) until Monday, May 16, 2016 at 5 p.m. CalFire says they are only re-opening the plan for public comment on the new material provided by the forester for landowner Gualala Redwood Timber (GRT).
The recirculated timber harvest plan (THP) documents are located in CalFire’s THP Library: ftp://thp.fire.ca.gov/THPLibrary/North_Coast_Region/THPs/THPs2015/1-15-042SON/
The California Forest Practice Rules (FPRs) require THP submitters to provide maps of all roads proposed for use, but the “Dogwood” logging plan did NOT include maps of the skid roads in the floodplain until this past week, when Gualala Redwood Timber finally provided maps in response to public comments. Now Cal Fire must re-circulate the plan for additional public comment on those maps, among other new material.
One of the most egregious flaws in the all-floodplain “Dogwood” logging plan is that it violates a basic Forest Practice Rule: the restriction on roads in water/lake protection zones (WLPZ), which includes flood-prone areas. Even the Dogwood THP document itself (Section 3, page 102) concedes that it needs an “exception” to this rule.
The rule has exceptions, apparently for timber harvest plans (THPs) that encroach but don’t fully occupy floodplains, as “Dogwood” does. Exceptions are conditionally allowed for this rule IF two conditions are met: first, the THP has to justify the exception in the plan (not after approval), and the Director of Cal Fire has to approve it. And the explanation has to be reasonable (generally consistent) with respect to all of the Forest Practice Rules including the Anadromous Salmonid Protection Rules and flood-prone rules, and Cal Fire’s own guidance on flood-prone considerations, published in 2005.
Dogwood THP tries to make the exception the rule, and a viciously circular rule: it proposes 100% floodplain logging roads, justifying them by saying GRT can’t log in the floodplain (which they aren’t supposed to do in the first place, under current rules) without the skid roads, so the roads are necessary!
The message for Cal Fire:
NO EXCEPTIONS that make the exception for skid roads in the flood-prone forest the rule! GRT has not reasonably justified a THP with 100% skid roads in flood-prone areas. GRT has not justified its failure to avoid or even minimize disturbances in flood-prone areas. It does not comply with the rules. The Director SHOULD NOT APPROVE the exception.
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Here is an excerpt of the rule, with the key clause in bold:
California Forest Practice Rules
916.3, 936.3, 956.3 General Limitations Near Watercourses, Lakes, Marshes, Meadows and Other Wet Areas [All Districts]
The quality and beneficial uses of water shall not be unreasonably degraded by timber operations. During timber operations, the timber operator shall not place, discharge, or dispose of or deposit in such a manner as to permit to pass into the water of this state, any substances or materials, including, but not limited to, soil, silt, bark, slash, sawdust, or petroleum, in quantities deleterious to fish, wildlife, or the quality and beneficial uses of water. All provisions of this article shall be applied in a manner which complies with this standard.
(a) When there is reasonable expectation that slash, debris, soil, or other material resulting from timber operations, falling or associated activities, will be deposited in Class I and Class II waters below the watercourse or lake transition line or in watercourses which contain or conduct Class IV water, those harvest activities shall be deferred until equipment is available for its removal, or another procedure and schedule for completion of corrective work is approved by the Director.
(b) Accidental depositions of soil or other debris in lakes or below the watercourse or lake transition line in waters classed I, II, and IV shall be removed immediately after the deposition or as approved by the Director.
(c) The timber operator shall not construct or use tractor roads in Class I, II, III or IV watercourses, in the WLPZ, marshes, wet meadows, and other wet areas unless explained and justified in the plan by the RPF, and approved by the Director, except as follows:
(1) At prepared tractor road crossings as described in 14 CCR § 914.8(b) [934.8(b), 954.8(b)].
(2) Crossings of Class III watercourses that are dry at the time of timber operations use.
(3) At new and existing tractor and road crossings approved as part of the Fish and Game Code process (F&GC § 1600 et seq.).
(d) Vegetation, other than commercial species, bordering and covering meadows and wet areas shall be retained and protected during timber operations unless explained and justified in the THP and approved by the Director. Soil within the meadows and wet areas shall be protected to the maximum extent possible.
(e) Trees cut within the WLPZ shall be felled away from the watercourse by pulling or other mechanical methods if necessary, in order to protect the residual vegetation in the WLPZ. Exceptions may be proposed in the THP and used when approved by the Director.
(f) Where less than 50% canopy exists in the WLPZs of Class I and II waters before timber operations, only sanitation salvage which protects the values described in 14 CCR 916.4(b) [936.4(b), 956.4(b)] shall be allowed.
(g) Recruitment of large woody debris for instream habitat shall be provided by retaining at least two living conifers per acre at least 16 inches diameter breast high and 50 ft. tall within 50 ft. of all Class I and II watercourses.
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For more information on the controversy surrounding the “Dogwood” logging plan, visit the floodplain logging section of our website.